(Though my regular column is suspended during the COVID 19 pandemic, we’ve decided to run some old ones I thought readers might enjoy. They originally were published in The Idaho Statesman early in my career there. Many will be humor columns. In times like these, we need humor.)

  Every day, America’s newspapers receive multiple news releases. Most are of marginal value, but every now and then one of true significance comes along.

 Imagine my excitement upon receiving a news release about this week’s National Nude Weekend. It isn’t often I get a chance at a big story like that.

  By the time you read this Sunday morning, National Nude weekend will be in full swing. So if you aren’t dressed yet, you might want to wait until Monday.

  The weekend is described as a “celebration of nude recreation, sun and freedom by all nudists coast to coast … Throughout the country, nudists-naturalists have planned outings and events in observance of National Nude Weekend, whether they be at privately owned nudist parks or on traditionally recognized nude beaches.”

  Clothing is optional during National Nude Weekend.

  In other words, it’s okay to wear clothes to church this morning.

  A promotional pamphlet accompanying the news release said there were “more than 1,400 clubs, parks, resorts, beaches, lakes and other recreation areas throughout the United States and Canada where you can experience a new and more natural way of life (assuming you’re interested, of course). Join the millions of other people throughout the country who have discovered the joy, freedom and relaxation of the ‘clothing-optional’ lifestyle.”

  To learn more about the weekend and the joys of the clothing-optional lifestyle, I called the nearest representative of the American Sunbathing Association. His name is Basil. Basil, who lives in San Francisco, claims that there are “50,000 card-carrying nudists in the U.S.” I asked him the obvious question, where they carried their cards, but he was not amused.

  Basil is 40 and has been a nudist since he was 14. That’s how old he was when his girlfriend and her parents invited him to spend a weekend at a nudist camp. He’s heard all the jokes.

  “That’s the whole point of National Nude Weekend, to educate the public,” he said. “We want the public to know that we’re people just like everybody else.”

  Though this would seem obvious (I know of no instance in which a nude human has been mistaken for anything else), the clothing-optional groups are going to considerable trouble to make their point. Activities are planned throughout the country, including radio and television appearances.

  Television?

  “Right,” Basil said, “For example, a group of us recently appeared nude on the Sally Jessy Raphael Show, a nationally syndicated program out of St. Louis. It went over very well.”

  It probably didn’t hurt Sally’s ratings, either.

  In addition to radio and television appearances, outings are being held at some 1,400 nude beaches and resorts in the U.S. and Canada. I asked Basil if any of them were in Idaho.

  “Just a minute,” he said, “I’ll go get the book.”

 Seconds later, he was reading from something called The World Guide to Nude Beaches and Recreation.

  “There are quite a few in Idaho,” he said.

  He named several in the Boise area, adding that there was “even a listing for skinny-rafting the Salmon River.”

  The guide’s editors may know a lot about nudism, but they sure don’t know much about rural Idaho, hardly a bastion of liberal views when it comes to things like traipsing around in the altogether. 

  The last time I was at one of the “nude beaches” listed in the guide, two cowboys were sitting on a cabin porch spitting tobacco. A sign over the door said “no guns allowed,” no doubt intended for the armed regulars who frequent the place. As a journalist from the “big city,” I felt lucky to make it back to my car without someone taking a potshot at me.

  And I was wearing clothes. 

  “In Central Idaho,” Basil continued, “there’s Robinson Bar.”

  Robinson Bar? Home to Carole King, the singer who passionately defends her privacy? I wonder how she’d feel if she knew her secluded retreat was listed in The World Guide to Nude Beaches and Recreation.

  Basil and I concluded our conversation with a subject that may seem trivial, but acquires added significance in the case of nudists.

  Sunburn.

  “It really isn’t that much of a problem,” he said.

 “We do go through a lot of sunscreen, though.”

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.